Staff shortages are occurring in local businesses.
Owners and community leaders have reflected on the shortage and how they, along with the area, are being affected.
The following people gave their input to the Branson Tri-Lakes News regarding these issues, and why they believe they’re occurring.
Jamie Whiteis : general manager of the Tanger Outlets Branson
“Almost each store at Tanger Branson is experiencing difficulty trying to fill their staffing needs. Most of these stores are experiencing this issue throughout the country. It’s a national issue and not just in Branson. The federal government needs to figure out a way to “reward” the person that has a job or goes out and gets a job. Some sort of tax deduction in their paycheck or stimulus check for having a job. Too many individuals seem to be complacent with continuing to receive unemployment benefits and the extra money the government has placed in that funding.
“Employers are trying to figure out ways to keep their businesses operating and satisfy customer demand. Some options being explored include reducing operating hours, hire on bonus, a bonus at end of probation period, additional paid time off days, and other exploratory options.
“Tanger has been operating 11 a.m. till 7 p.m. daily so far in 2021. The main reason for this was to help out tenants that we knew were having staffing issues. Many shoppers have been unhappy with these operating hours. We are trying to figure out the ‘happy medium’ and beginning May 1, operating hours at Tanger Branson will be 9 a.m. till 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. till 7 p.m. on Sunday. Not all stores will be able to comply but we will work with each store to figure out the most effective hours they can operate based on their staffing. We hope our customers will understand and continue to support Tanger and each of our stores as we work through these difficult labor times.”
Scott Skoglund : owner of Lodge of the Ozarks
“Businesses are seeing a large increase in tourism with record-breaking months. Unfortunately, due to this high travel demand, Branson is experiencing a greater labor shortage. We have seen new attractions, shows, restaurants and accommodations enter the market and we are all pulling from the same pool of workers. Branson is still seasonal but our peak months have expanded creating a shortage of laborers earlier than expected. In the past, many businesses have relied on foreign laborers such as J1s and H2bs to help meet peak demand. However, these programs have been delayed or canceled due to COVID crisis and an increased demand in 2021.”
Larry Milton : owner of Main Street Marina, Main Street Lake Cruises, Main Street Water Sport Rentals, The Paddlewheel and Landing Axes
“As a business owner, we are experiencing the same labor crisis as most all other businesses in Branson. The negative impact we have experienced due to lack of employees is having to close our businesses on days that we would normally be open.
The staff we do have is becoming exhausted from trying their best to work as many hours as possible. Our customer service is declining because our employees are simply exhausted. And most businesses across our city are feeling the same pain. In fact, one business recently decided to close for a month to give their burnt out employees time to rest and recuperate before the heaviest part of the tourist season hits this summer. And this isn’t just affecting the businesses or employees.
“Our Branson visitor experience is suffering also. The chamber and our offices receive comments and concerns every week from visitors confused about why so many businesses are understaffed. All of us depend on repeat customers and when visitors feel the loss of our “friendly, outgoing, kind and smiling” Branson spirit, they do not leave Branson with the same “We can’t wait to come back” feeling. Our town has been through a lot over the last year, and the only way we can come out the other end successfully is if we do so together.”
Nikki Kinney-Sivils: marketing director for the Branson Landing
“Branson has always had employment issues during our ‘on seasons’, but this year it has become a crisis. Our retailers and restaurants have struggled to keep up with the Branson traffic this spring.
“We are all loving the draw Branson brings and want to give everyone that great Branson hospitality, but the strain of the lack of employees, put on our store management, is very real. I have some managers working 20-plus days straight and double shifts to keep up with the traffic, and we’ve not even hit our ‘high’ season yet.”
Tammy Zachary: co-owner of the Downing Street Pour House in Hollister and Gettin Basted in Branson
“We are only struggling with the lower paid positions. I think it is two fold. Partly fear of COVID and partly government stimulus and the extension of additional unemployment.
“Even our lower paid positions are above minimum wage. - We offer benefits and bonus structure and still doesn’t seem to be a drive to bring new employees in. Again, we have a great staff and are really in a good position with our staffing and team.”
Branson Mayor Larry Milton
“First I want the people to hear this: YOUR Mayor wants to see YOU succeed.
“It is common knowledge that Branson has many more job openings than ever before. Enhanced unemployment payments have enticed many to stay on unemployment, however, this will come to an end. This provides a once in a lifetime opportunity for the employees in Branson.
“Today, the employees can “game the EMPLOYMENT system” and get in the front of the line by seeking employment now, before the unemployment benefits expire. Think about this, they can pretty much choose where they want to work and who they want to work with. It truly is an “employee’s job market” right now.
“When the unemployment benefits end, there will be a mad dash of employees seeking jobs. When the businesses start filling in jobs, individuals who go back to work now, before the mad dash, will have seniority. This will result in better hours that they want to work, great opportunities to become leads and managers and an increase in pay for the long term.
“I encourage the people of our city to forgo the short term benefits of unemployment and reap the long term rewards of employment to improve their quality of life.”
Hollister Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board John Hagey
“At the Hollister Area Chamber of Commerce we get calls every day from our members and local businesses looking for more employees. The sad reality is that many of these businesses have had to alter hours of operation, offer limited services, change their business model all together and in some cases close completely.
“We are seeing existing employees working longer hours and taking on much more responsibility for employers than ever before. It breaks our hearts to see so many businesses struggling to find employees. Higher pay rates and incentives being offered for new hires still aren’t bringing enough applicants. This crisis is one that has the power to quickly undermine the true heart of hospitality and service we are known for here in our beloved communities.”